“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions – we cannot be free”
– Thich Nhat Hanh.
Haven’t we all faced this dilemma at least once in our lives about whether we should hold on or let go of something or someone? Letting go is a difficult thing to do, especially when we are still attached to an object or a person. Whether we accept it or not, we tend to hold on even when it hurts us to do so. But why is it so difficult to let go? Have you ever wondered how different your life can be if you learn to free yourself from the shackles of holding on?
If you are still holding on to things, emotions, or people who have already let go of you, then it is time to bring a positive change in your life. Let’s take a look at how you can let go and move forward in life.
Why is letting go difficult?
Letting go is often difficult because it indicates you have to free yourself from certain aspects that have become a part of you. These aspects can be a person or experiences from your past. They can be possessions that carry a special meaning for you. They can even be your expectations of how things should have turned out.
In essence, letting go means bringing in a change in your life. It is this notion of change that makes people uncomfortable and insecure. That is why they resist change by refusing to let go.
What happens when you refuse to let go?
When you hold on to something or someone, you actually hold yourself down. Unless you learn to let go, you can’t take control of your life.
From relationships that have run their course to friendships gone sour to regrets and old grudges to unfulfilled dreams, your emotional baggage can be about anything. But if you continue to latch on to them, your inability to let go can manifest into other problems.
Here is how your refusal to let go can impact your life:
There’s no denying that we feel stressed when things don’t work out as per our plan or expectations. Your stress level can increase further if you are not even ready to accept that some things are beyond your control and shy away from embracing reality.
Often we get anxious, depressed, or angry thinking about what happened in our past or what is happening at present. We even worry about what may happen in the future. Your emotional anxiety can intensify if you become obsessed and continue thinking about such things ceaselessly.
When people fail to behave as per our expectations, we tend to feel frustrated or irritated with them. Many a time, we refuse to acknowledge that no one is perfect and we all can make mistakes.
If you hang on to your ideas and expectations about how others should behave, you pave the way for disappointments, anger, and frustrations. This can cause friction in your relationship with others and leave you feeling strained.
Did you ever ponder about why we want things to happen our way? At the core of it is fear – fear of letting people down, fear of missing out on opportunities, fear of failure, fear of not being accepted for who we are, fear of being not good enough, and so on.
By holding on to an intense desire of things turning your way, you intrinsically hold on to fear and allow it to limit your life in several ways.
Pain and suffering
More often than not, the experience of a loss causes us to lament and suffer. This loss may occur in the form of an emotionally abusive relationship that failed, a broken friendship, a divorce, a missed chance, a lost job opportunity, or the death of someone dear, to name a few.
While it is normal to feel pain and grieve over your loss, the problem arises when you refuse to overcome it and look ahead. By constantly dwelling on your loss or wallowing in self-pity, you prolong your pain and suffering.
How do you know when it is time to let go?
It is alright to accept the impact that a relationship or a person from your past had on your life. However, you should not allow your past to hold you in its grip and cloud your present and future. By holding on to the pain, trauma, anger, frustration, guilt, or expectation from your past, you put up emotional and psychological barriers that prevent you to move on in life.
The first step of moving on is to realize that it is time to let go. But how do you know when it’s time to do so? While there is no clear answer to this question, these signs can serve as a wake-up call for you.
When nothing seems to make a difference: Regardless of what you do or say, it has no impact on the concerned person.
When the possibility of compromise is nil: Either one or both of you are so inflexible that there is no chance of compromise.
When the prospect of improvement in the future seems non-existent: You feel that the quality of the relationship will not improve in the future.
When interactions turn toxic and emotionally draining: Every conversation or interaction you have with the concerned person leaves you in emotional turmoil.
When the emotional scars seem too deep to heal: You realize that the scars you received are way too deep for you to forget easily.
When it’s only memories to deal with: There is no interaction with the person at present and yet you cling on to the memories.
When it feels lonely and unheard: Though you tell yourself that your bond with the concerned person exists, yet you feel lonely and unheard at all times.
When there is a lack of respect: Whatever else the relationship might be giving you, there is always a lack of respect for you in it.
When the expectation is all about things getting better: The situation is quite muddled but you stay back frantically expecting things to turn better.
When the situation brings no joy: At present, you feel a lack of happiness or joy in anything related to the relationship.
When memories turn torturous: Whenever you are flooded with the memories of happy moments spent in the past, you become tremendously unhappy.
When resentment sets in: You resent everything related to the relationship or the concerned person and yet you can’t seem to free yourself from it all.
When the tears overpower the smiles: The pain of the past seems to hover over the happiness of your present.
When fear replaces hope: While once you were hopeful of a positive change, now you fear that it is never going to happen.
When there is no escaping the truth: You may not acknowledge it but somewhere deep inside you know that things will never be the same again.
How to let go?
Once you acknowledge the need to let go, the next step is to work towards making it a reality. But acknowledging it and actually letting it go are two different things. So, how do you go about it? Well, the best way forward is to take one step at a time.
Check out these tips that can help you to let go of a relationship or stressful emotions and move on in life:
Focus on the present: Think about what is happening at present. Do not dwell on your past or keep worrying about your future. Let things take their turn.
Create physical and psychological distance: Create physical and psychological distance between yourself and the cause of your anger or frustration, be it a person or a situation. This will give you the much-needed freedom of not being reminded about it often or having to process it.
Write it all down: Release pent-up emotions. Give an outlet to your anger, frustrations, pain, expectations, and even fear by writing it all down. Then tear up the pages and think of it an end to your attachment.
Self-reflect: More often than not, a situation is the result of the actions and reactions of both parties involved. Self-reflect and acknowledge the part you played.
Be kind to yourself: Rather than blaming yourself, accept that you have tried your best to make things work. If things haven’t worked out, it is not your fault.
Consider the options: Remind yourself that there are just two options: either you continue to suffer or uplift yourself and move ahead.
Change your perception: Look at the whole situation from a neutral point of view and try to see the positivity you can derive out of it. Find out how letting go of the past can be a blessing in disguise.
Accept the hard facts: It is always tough to accept that something you once cherished has come to an end. But sometimes you don’t have another option left. Break away from the false illusions of a second chance that you have created in your head and focus on new beginnings.
Life is too short to carry along the burden of pain, fear, anger, grief, and frustration. The key to becoming a free soul lies in letting go. It can empower you to heal yourself and cultivate inner stability. Though it may take time and patience, ultimately you will gain freedom from all that is holding you back.
So, relax, breathe, and let go!